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Crusher. 6/30/2007

I was in 2 minds about posting this. Mainly because of what happened one post previously, and my specific comment about women drivers cutting in front of vehicles much bigger than theirs. I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m some sort of road bully, or that I use the diesel as a weapon on the road. I obey road rules. I am courteous in traffic, and will yield and merge when the situation calls for it. I signal my intentions early. I don’t tailgate or intimidate other drivers, nor do I use the sheer bulk of the diesel to force my way through traffic. But what happened to me this evening beggared belief.

I was on the way home, after work, late in the evening. There was a long line of cars waiting their turn to turn left at a “T” junction. This junction is controlled by a set of traffic lights, and the left and right turning lanes are clearly marked, with a double white line splitting them. This means that if you’re turning left, you turn left, or vice versa. You certainly aren’t allowed to wait on the right and make the left turn when the lights turn green.

The unfortunate thing is, the lights are short, and perhaps 5 or 6 cars get through at a time. I was 3 cars away from the light, and was waiting for it to turn green. I know these lights well, and had the diesel in gear, and ready to go, so that I didn’t unnecessarily delay the cars waiting behind me with a slow take off. There was a brand new Nissan on my right. I didn’t think anything of it, aside from the fact that there were 3 young girls in the car.

The lights turned green, the cars started moving, and I let the clutch out. And the Nissan next to me put its left turn signal on, and tried to quickly cut into the gap in front of me to take the left turn. Except that there wasn’t any kind of gap. I was maybe 5 feet away from the car in front, and I definitely had no where to go. I hit the horn, loudly. No, I didn’t touch the brakes. If I did, the car behind would have rear ended me. There was a high curb to the left of me, and I couldn’t even move over.

This bitch didn’t give me an inch, and deliberately tried to force her way in. Even when there was absolutely no way in. I gave up. And ran the diesel straight along the left side of her car. I crumpled the passenger side door, tore off the wing mirror, the front fender and the bumper. I definitely shunted the left front wheel, making the car undriveable.

She managed to get the car through the intersection, dragging bits of plastic along. She stopped her car, and was making motions of getting out to discuss the “accident”. I looked in my rear view mirror, and saw the guy in the car behind me grinning broadly from ear to ear. I looked over to the left, at the female passenger in the Nissan, who was pale in fright. The driver got out of the car and stood up. It was a young chinese girl, looking very butch. Very butch indeed.

She was glaring at me, waiting for me to stop and get out. I looked at her, decided that I was rather more hungry than angry, flipped her the bird, and drove off.

Never, ever, ever, fuck with the Snark and his diesel. Ever.

I think the diesel gets returned to the company pool this coming Monday, and I’m going to indent for something a little more anonymous, and a little less powerful.

An apology. 6/26/2007

I guess I owe you some sort of apology.

I mean, the gap that you left between your car and the car in front was well over 30 meters.  I signalled my intention to lane change, and did so in the proper manner.

I guess I must have upset you some, because you were speeding up to try and close the gap, and then flashed your high beams to show me that you were somewhat annoyed. 

I think there was really no need for you to start flashing your high beams contimously at me while I was keeping pace with the traffic in front.  It isn’t really my fault you were dreaming and didn’t stay with the pace of traffic.

I definitely know that there wasn’t a call for you to start tailgating me, and showing me the right side of your car, like you were in this really fast car trying to get past on the highway.  We were in the middle of the city, and it was rush hour.  There really isn’t any place to go fast at that time of day.

I know you think that little local made piece of shit car you’re driving is shit hot.  It’s probably your pride and joy, even though you are in hock to the finance company for the next 9 years, and paying for that car probably takes a hefty chunk out of your salary.

I know you think you’re a really hot driver as well, but you obviously didn’t think about what it was your were very dangerously tail gating in rush hour traffic, and the kind of engine it has, and what it weighs.

I know you didn’t think that the driver behind the wheel of the big diesel, i.e. me, had any kind of driving skills to speak of, or that I would be easily intimidated.  I guess after you’ve shared a race track in competition with 2 men who went on to become World Champions, nothing intimidates you anymore on the road.

I think you really don’t have any knowledge of the characteristics of vehicles, and how to use their engines effectively, or that diesels have enormous amounts of engine braking available on the downshift.

I guess you also didn’t notice the tow ball at the back of the vehicle you were following so very closely, trying to intimidate the driver.

I think you might have pissed your pants when the big truck in front of you went from 90 km/h to walking pace in the space of a heart beat, without the brake lights flashing.  I did see you trying to swerve, and you realising you had no where else to go in the heavy traffic.

I guess the crumple zone at the front of your car did its job, and I guess the mess from the top of your radiator being torn off by the tow ball will eventually evaporate from the road.

I don’t really care that your car is probably damaged enough that it will have to be in the workshop for the next 6 weeks while your insurance company goes through the motions.  A few more scratches on the truck’s rear bumper is really neither here nor there for me.  All I have to do is throw the keys to the Admin executive in the company and say to him, “get it fixed.”

Actually, come to think of it, I’m not sorry at all.

The Kiss of the Cobra. 6/24/2007

Grant S. : Did you see that cobra?

The Snark : What cobra?

Grant S. : The one that tried to strike at your foot.

The Snark : What the fuck?

(more…)

The Gap. 6/22/2007

Every morning, I come down this road.

Every morning, I sit there, zoning out, cursing the fact that I am sitting in a cage and going nowhere, fast.

Every morning, I see the gap, and wish I could be slicing it.

And this morning was especially bad, when an SP-1 stopped right next to my window, and revved his engine.  The booming V-twin sound caught my attention, and I turned to look.  It was being ridden by a riding buddy from way back, and he recognised me sitting there in the diesel.  I wound the window down, he raised his visor, and we exchanged pleasantries while sitting in the traffic waiting for the lights to change.

Then the traffic policeman waved us on.  He nodded a goodbye, closed his visor, and shot through the gap, leaving me there to do the 5 m.p.h. shuffle.

Traffic trauma continued. 6/19/2007

So anyway, it’s been a month of driving this big diesel daily, through the madness that is city traffic. And due to public perception, and staff expectations of how someone in my specific corporate position is supposed to dress and behave, I am forced to wear the monkey suit, and drive in to work. Which sucketh donkey dick. Big time.

Driving in, I noticed something which KY summed up quite nicely. What he said to me over a tumbler of Jack Daniel’s was this. “Women are really brave drivers. Because they are oblivious.”

I laughed when he said this because it was true. On the drive in daily, the biggest thing on the road is me, or rather, the diesel I’m driving. The only things bigger than I am are the buses and various lorries. I noticed that the diesel is actually slightly wider than even a Range Rover. Sitting way above traffic, stuck in the line of cars, I have a pretty good view ahead of me.

Because the diesel is a diesel, she isn’t all that quick off the line, although the grunt of the engine makes roll -ons absolutely no contest. When the diesel is moving, in top gear, all I have to do is goose the throttle, and she will absolutely rocket forward. This is great in the shuffle-stop that is rush hour traffic. I keep the gearbox in third, creeping along slowly, and then tap the accelerator whenever I need to move forward, using just enough clutch to keep the engine from bogging down. Which it doesn’t usually, because I’ve actually rolled her on in top gear from 1,100 r.p.m and she didn’t even stumble.

And sitting in the traffic, because the diesel’s rather slow take off, there’s usually a gap between the diesel, and the car in front.  Not much of one, but a gap nonetheless.  And the temptation for the driver in the adjoining lane to cut in is high.  I have begun to notice something during my daily drive.  When a male driver sees the gap, he will check his mirrors.  He realises that his mirror is filled with giant truck, and immediately exercises discretion, and doesn’t pull out.

Women drivers, on the other hand, see the diesel in the mirrors, and pull out anyway.  They are completely oblivious of the fact that the diesel tips the scales at a deuce and a half, and that stopping the diesel once it gets going takes a bit of effort.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to brake very sharply to avoid melding the front of the diesel with the back of some matchbox on wheels driven by some random office lady who thinks she’s invincible just because she actually remembered to put her turn signal on before changing lanes and cutting into my path.

I wouldn’t mind it so much if the gap was wide enough to allow a smooth lane change, and for the car to merge properly into the traffic, but sometimes, the gap is just barely wide enough for the matchbox, say 15 feet or so.

One of these days, I’m going to be daydreaming, or getting caught up on the music coming over the headphones, or just unable to react in time, and the diesel is going to be wearing some woman’s dinky little car as a hood ornament.

The month of no riding. 6/13/2007

For someone who swore blind he would never drive a 4 wheeled vehicle again in daily traffic to get to work unless he had to, I had to.  I just spent the past month driving to work daily, using the diesel.  It wasn’t strictly by choice, although I have to admit that getting to work without being sweaty, or having my nerves frazzled by the daily combat commute, was a little refreshing.

The first few days, I rode in to work, as I used to do in my previous place of employment.  No big deal for me.  Ride in, take off the helmet and gloves, put them into the topbox, stuff the jacket into one of the panniers, straighten the tie, wipe the worst of the sweat off my face, and I was good to go.  Until the morning when I was running a little late.  There was a meeting I had to attend, and after pulling into the basement, and parking up Bikebike, I rushed to the lift lobby, pulling my helmet off on the way.

As I got out of the lift, stripping my gloves off, I ran into one of my staff in the corridor.  She gave me a rather weird look, and hurriedly disappeared into the pantry.  I walked into the department office, and headed towards my office.  And I was treated to more weird looks from my staff as I walked past their desks and cubicles.  I was a little freaked out by this.  I had only been working in this place a week, and I was starting to think I had landed on the planet Zorg.

A little digression at this juncture, if I may.  The company I am working for is rather conservative, with many of the staff having been there a long time.  For someone like me, 3 years in one company is a long time.  My longest ever stint in one place was 5 years, exactly.  And I have staff under me who have been with the company longer than I’ve been drawing a corporate salary.  The managers who comprise my management team, all 8 of them, have an average age of about 51, making me the punk kid.  As I joked about it with someone, I’m riding herd on a bunch of dinosaurs.  All of them have been with the company in a timeframe that is measured in decades.  And they have become used to the culture, and way of working, and more importantly, a certain perception as to how senior managers behave.

And within the company hierarchy, I happen to be very senior indeed.  Just 3 steps short of a nosebleed.  As I walked into my office, I suddenly realised what it was.  I was getting funny looks because, in all probability, there had never been, in the entire history of the company, a senior manager coming in to work riding a motorcycle.  Lower rank staff certainly.  Site staff for sure.  But a senior manager in HQ wearing an armored riding jacket, Gundam boots, and skulls decorating his helmet?  It wasn’t the done thing.  I didn’t fit into their mental image of what a manager should be.

I was tempted to say fuggit, and just continue riding to work.  I definitely would have preferred to.  But I was, right here and now, in a very difficult position.  Trying to earn the respect and obedience of my staff, all 120 of them.  In a situation where I had very definite and difficult targets, along with the expectations of the someone above me, who had placed their trust and faith in me that I had the capability to perform something that wouldn’t be that very far short of a miracle.  And I know that whatever I did and said was being carefully observed, and my failure would satisfy more than a few egos.

So in the interests of self preservation, and in not wanting to make a difficult job impossible by introducing a credibility gap, I bowed to convention, and convention demanded that I drive in to work in a 4 wheeled vehicle, like every other cow in the herd.  This grated on me, on my nerves, on every fiber of my being.  I absolutely hated it.  I despised the morning commute, and the rush hour back.  I hated sitting there, in the cage, doing the 5 m.p.h. shuffle, listening to the morons who pass for deejays on local radio.  Even someone lending me an iPod didn’t help.

This then resulted in me falling into depression, much to someone’s worry and despair.  My work didn’t suffer any, nor did anything else go to pot.  I didn’t start putting up emo posts (although this would come close to being one).  But it was noticed that there was a marked change in my personality.

The crunch came last week, when during a particularly bad drive home which took the best part of 2 hours to complete.  Someone asked me to go riding on the weekend, and I replied, “I don’t feel like it.”  This started alarm bells ringing.  When the Snark says he doesn’t want to ride a motorcycle, something is definitely wrong.  And someone made the effort on the weekend, and so did I.  I rode.

I took Bikebike out, and rode, a little.  Not far, and not out of the city.  But after getting a little upset on Saturday morning, I blitzkrieged the traffic.  Literally.  There is a driver in a white Alfa Romeo 156 who is not going to soon forget me, or the way I took a corner that had his car getting tail happy.  A young girl driving her little box got a summary lesson in exactly how fast motorcycles can move.  2 other drivers lost their wing mirrors.  Someone else got his door kicked in.  I threw away the rule book, and I raged.

And you know what? I feel a lot better and happier now, thank you for asking.  Who wants to come riding with me 2 weekends from today?

Declaration of war. 4/11/2007

Motorcycling, by its very nature, is a solitary sport. Even if you are riding in a group, you are essentially alone. Just you and your motorcycle, and the road, with your thoughts bouncing around inside your helmet.

The above is a sample of the random fragments of thought that do bounce around inside my helmet as I ride.  I ride to work every day.  By choice.  And I spend a lot of time alone with my thoughts.  I do devote some attention to the various car drivers trying to kill me in the course of my daily commute, of course, but mainly, I use my riding time to think about the day coming up, or things that are festering on my “to-do” list, or more and more often lately, of someone.

I have noticed that I have begun to become a little gun-shy of the daily commute.  Yesterday morning’s ride in was a good case in point.  Traffic was more than a little chaotic, and cars were changing lanes willy-nilly, trying to gain a 12 foot advantage on the car beside them.  I don’t really understand this.  When I am forced to use a four wheeler for the drive in to the city, I get into my desired lane.  And I stay there.  I don’t see much point in jockeying and fighting for position in a traffic jam where the average speed of the vehicles stuck in the jam is about 10 miles an hour.  Because you’ll get to your destination 90 seconds earlier, tops.  And if the cop manning the intersection gets his timing wrong, you end up waiting anyway.

So what’s the point of lane changing 5 times in the space of 500 meters?

You aggravate the drivers you’re cutting in front of, and you’re definitely aggravating the motorcycles lane splitting behind you, because you’re now straddling lanes, and no one is giving you an inch.  You are now an obstruction to motorcycles.  Congratulations.  In case you didn’t realise it, the reason there is a traffic jam is because of the high number of single occupancy vehicles, i.e. cars, that come into the city.  With drivers changing lanes, and not keeping to a steady speed, and slowing down excessively for corners.  And you are not helping matters any by trying to get ahead 20 feet.

So I’ve become a little wary about lane splitting, even though it’s the most efficient way to commute by motorcycle in the city.  I worry about idiots like you, who change lanes without signalling, or not checking your mirrors.  Who do it suddenly, without making sure there is nothing alongside you.  Or deliberately trying to squeeze me out, because I take up less space that that car you are currently stuck in.  Or tailgate behind me, trying to squeeze past because you feel I’m moving a little too slowly, or because I left a little gap on my left or right.

I remember once, a long while ago, having an argument with a car driver, who was of the opinion that motorcycles should give way to cars because they had smaller engines.  I almost shoved my beer can up his ass, because any motorcycle above 250 c.c. in this country pays more in road tax yearly than a 1500 c.c. car.  Not to mention that any motorcycle imported into the country pays 100% in import duty.  So on a price per pound basis, I would think big bikes have more of a right to the road that any econo-box sedan.  Motorcycle use less road space, don’t damage roads, consume fewer resources and produce less emissions (no one mention 2 strokers, they’ve been banned for road use almost everywhere else in the world except this region and Africa).

And every day, more and more, I think about the dangers I face daily.  I’ve lost count of the number of close shaves, or how many wing mirrors I’ve ripped off or broken, of how many doors I’ve kicked in, or the number of windows I’ve broken with a quick application of a carbon fiber knuckled glove.  I’m getting really tired of having to be wary and cautious.

So, in fair warning to anyone who may be sharing the road with me  from tomorrow.  I’ve decided that I have equal rights to the road as you do in the rush hour.  Don’t get in my way.

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